Carrying your photographic equipment

I am just back from a trip in Malaysia and Indonesia and I am still selecting and working on the few thousands of pictures I took, they will appear in the near future. In the meantime I wanted to share some new experiences with carrying gear.

I read somewhere about a photographer never complaining about his wife buying many bags: he was buying many more bags for his cameras. I think that is something that many photographer tend to do, with a new piece of equipment comes a new need to carry it. In some case a new piece of equipment (generally a big lens or moving from a body without grip to a body with grip) creates a carrying problem to solve, and sure this gives the best reason in the world to tell your better half why you had to buy it in the first place 🙂

I’m no different.

This time I had to carry heavy stuff, including a Canon EF 500 f/4 L IS USM with a bunch of other lenses (Canon EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USMCanon EF 70-200 f/4 L IS USMCanon EF 100 f/2.8 L IS USM MacroCanon EF 400 f/5.6 L USM, Sigma 15mm 2.8 Fish-eye) and accessories and two bodies with grip (Canon EOS 1D Mark IV and Canon EOS 5D Mark III), all in all about 18kg of cabin equipment and 10 more checked in. As my old Lowepro Nature Trekker AW was ruined with mould (tropical climate is merciless with most paddings) I went to purchase a new Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW

Lowepro Pro Trekker 400AW

Lowepro Pro Trekker 400AW

amongst the good news was that the new backpack is lighter than the old one and has more capacity, plus is can be easily fitted with an hydration system. I was able to load it with all the equipment I didn’t want to check in. However, I could not fit the Canon EF 400 f/5.6 L USM which travelled in the middle of my checked in case.

Additionally I tried a new photographic vest: a Xtra hand Magnum from As they put it, their photographic vest is “made to carry stuff, not to look sexy…”. Indeed you will not look sexy in any stretch of imagination but you will be able to carry comfortably a lot of stuff which will be easily accessible in the field. Not like carrying a backpack and having to put it down each time you need something with the vest virtually everything is immediately accessible, even the back pocket can be operated while wearing the vest.

With the Magnum, I was able to carry a pro body in a pocket, a 400mm lens, teleconverters (1.4x and 2x), 3 extension tubes, a 24-105 or a 15mm fish eye, a 1.5l water bottle, a flashgun with its brackets, the better beamer and a Quantum battery pack. Also I was carrying the 500mm with a body attached on its tripod over my shoulder, this was comfortable as the shoulders of the vest are generously padded. Overall about 15kg of equipment that I was able to carry and use in the jungle, at the rice paddies or on the beach. It was really comfortable and I would recommend it without doubt for all who need to carry a lot of equipment in the field and want easy access to their stuff. It is pricey but well worth it and from what I have seen in the market, nothing come close to these vests.

I have also ordered a Khumbu vest from the same, which has a back pocket to carry either a large tripod or a long lens with body attached (apparently it would hold a 600mm with body). I will try it in the coming weeks and report my experience with it, but I am quite confident it will perform at least as well as the Magnum vest.

Another great find I’d like to share is the Blackrapid strap. For years I’ve been using  Op/tech USA straps (in particular the Super Pro Strap with loops) to carry a heavy camera/lens for trekking/travel photography and I will continue to use it for single body setup. However I find that when using the 500mm, I can carry a second body with an intermediate lens (like the 400mm) with the Blackrapid strap and keep it always ready for flight photography. With the RS-4 or RS-7 (the RS-4 has a small pocket built in) it was a joy to use and have my 400mm always ready. I heard/read horror stories about the mount screw of the Blackrapid slowly unscrewing itself and gear crashing hopelessly on the floor, but I never had a problem with it, it will surely unscrew over time but if you think about tightening it each time you use your camera you are pretty safe from dropping your precious camera.

One more thing: while it is not about carrying stuff, I always struggle about protecting my head. Under the tropic the sun is quite strong and spending hours long under the sun require a good hat. I’ve tried quite a few options, mostly I was using a baseball cap but the visor was often getting in the way (especially when using a camera with a flashgun mounted or with the camera in portrait orientation) and they are not really effective at protecting from the sun. I’ve tried also bucket bats but they are less effective at protecting the eyes from the sun and they then to fold down against the flashgun mounted on the camera. After years of searching I have now found that Airflo hats from Tilley are the perfect hats

Willey Airflo LTM6

Willey Airflo LTM6

they protect from the sun, their brim folds up against a flashgun, they protect your head effectively against heat and UV. I am using the LTM3 and the LTM6 and they are just ideal for me, I have a light coloured LTM3 for open terrain and a olive green LTM6 for covered and forrest terrain (there you want protection too).

That’s it for today, next blog entries will be for pictures!

Carrying your photographic equipmentChristian C. Berclaz

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